[ANALYSIS] Worst result for the PN since the 1950s

The Nationalist Party got 41.7% of all first preferences under the leadership of Bernard Grech. This was the worst vote share the PN has managed to achieve since the 1955 general election, when it was first led by George Borg Olivier.

The highest share the Nationalist Party has ever achieved was in the 1998 and 2003 elections when it managed to get 51.8%. This share had also been achieved in 1992. Since 2003 the Nationalists have seen their electoral share fall by 10.1 percentage points, or by a fifth.

In terms of number of votes, under Bernard Grech’s leadership the Nationalist Party managed to get 123,233 first preferences. This was the lowest number of votes obtained by the Nationalist Party since the 1987 general election.

The highest ever voter approval the Nationalists achieved was in 2003 when they received 146,172 first preferences. Since then, they have lost nearly 23,000, or a sixth of their 2003 votes. Half of the decline in votes was achieved under Bernard Grech’s leadership.

The Nationalist Party got nearly 12,500 votes less than it did in 2017.  The largest loss in absolute terms was in the first district, where the vote tally went down by 1,950 votes. The first district now resembles the sixth district in terms of Labour popularity. Under Bernard Grech the Nationalist Party managed to get the lowest number of first preferences in the first district since 1981. Back in 2008 the Nationalists were able to garner 10,586 first preferences here, or a quarter more than they did this year.

The first district now resembles the 6th district in terms of Labour popularity.

The second largest decline was a 1,643-vote decline in the tenth district. The tenth district is the traditional Nationalist stronghold, but this time round they managed to get only marginally more first preferences than they did in the eleventh district. Back in 2003 the Nationalists had managed to get 15,728 first preferences in the tenth district, with a vote share difference of over 47%. Now their vote tally is a fifth lower and the vote share difference with Labour has more than halved.

The Nationalists have decreased their vote share in all districts, but in relative terms their most disastrous result was in Gozo. Their vote share in the thirteenth district fell to less than 44% for the first time since 1955, while their absolute vote tally was down to what it was in 1998.

As recently as 2003, the Nationalists nearly got 60% of all votes in Gozo. In the last two decades they have lost nearly 15 percentage points or a quarter of their former strength. In terms of Labour popularity, Gozo is now nearly the equivalent of the seventh district. The only time that Labour commanded such a degree of popularity in Gozo was when the grandfather of Clint Camilleri was a Member of Parliament, just after the Labour split ended in the 1950s.

Like what happened with the first district, the thirteenth has transformed from being a Nationalist stronghold to being a Labour district. This process appears to be now happening in the twelfth district, where in the last election for the first time the Nationalist Party failed to score above 50% in terms of vote share. Back in 2003 the twelfth had been the second-strongest Nationalist stronghold, with a vote share of 62.1%.

It is now clear that the Nationalist Party has lost a substantial part of its voter base, with the party failing to cross the 50% voter share for nearly two decades. It only retains popularity within a core group of districts, and even here its vote share is declining rapidly. Turning around these trends could well prove to be a very difficult task.

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